Tips for menopause from the NHS & chinese medicine view
I am really interested in supporting women approaching or going through menopause, I believe some cultures like Japan do this very well. A woman manifests into the authentic person she has been dreaming of during this transition. This is not a time to feel flat or self loathing. This transition needs to be shared and talked about. There is nothing that should feel taboo or hidden away about this process.
The article discusses lifestyle suggestions often provided by mainstream western medicine and how they can benefit you. I also explain the traditional chinese medicine lifestyle point of view along side.
Eat a diet low in salt & saturated fats
Salt, the key to tasty food, but a killer if you have undiagnosed high blood pressure. The allowance for an adult is 6 grams per day or 2.4 g of sodium (around 1 teaspoon).
Are you a food label reader like me?
Remember salt & sodium on packaging are different figures. To convert sodium to salt, you need to multiply the sodium amount by 2.5. For example, 1g of sodium per 100g is 2.5 grams of salt per 100g. Adults should eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, as this is equal to 6g of salt.
Some foods are high in salt due to how they are made, others have salt in them, and the reason your salt intake is high is because your eating too much.
These are high in salt:
Anchovies, bacon, canned soups, cheese, frozen dinners, gravy granules, ham, olives, pickles, prawns, salami (any lunch meat), salted and dry-roasted nuts, salt fish, smoked meat and fish, soy sauce, stock cubes, yeast extract
This list includes foods that have salt, but vary depending on brand:
Bread products such as crumpets, bagels and ciabatta, pasta sauces, crisps, pizza, ready meals, soup, sandwiches, sausages, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and other sauces, breakfast cereals
These foods have higher amounts of naturally occurring mineral sodium:
Celery, beets, milk
Did you know effervescent vitamin supplements or pain killers contain up to 1 gram of salt per tablet? Something to consider!
Chinese medicine view: salt is important but in moderation!
Get enough vitamin D and calcium
Often we think of drinking milk & eating cheese in the UK when this suggestion is mentioned. Chinese medicine dietary therapy has a different view point on consuming cow’s milk. Calcium is important to get from food and drink each day but not from cows milk, unless you drink raw unpasteurised milk (hard to get unless you know the farmer) or a truly organic product. Goats milk has marginally more calcium than cows milk with less of the lactose intolerant outcomes. Calcium is available in many foods such as:
Seeds - poppy, chia, sesame, celery, yogurt, sardines and canned salmon, beans & lentils, almonds, whey protein, some leafy greens…. They must be dark. Collard greens, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, rhubarb, fortified foods.
Some types of cereals: amaranth (pseudo-cereal), edamame & Tofu, fortified drinks (soya milk), dried figs
Chinese medicine view point: re consider cow’s milk products, I think you might be pleasantly surprised at the changes in weight and energy if you swap cows cheese for goat cheese or cows milk for goats milk. Natural organic yoghurt is actually okay in moderation from a cow, but there are so many great products to try out in the areas (like sheep & coconut based yoghurts)
We all know we get Vit D from the sun, it provides us with healthy bones. In the UK we sometimes struggle with getting enough, even in the summer. To create Vit D in the body we need direct sunlight on our skin, so get outside when the sun comes out! It’s not known how long we need in the sun to actually make up the requirement for health. Don’t forget the sunscreen! 30 SPF minimum on your face, look at skin creams which have this combined already.
Your body can’t make Vit D if your sitting indoors in a sunny window because ultraviolet B (UVB) can’t get through the glass. To make it more challenging in a country which has dark winter sunlight there is not enough UVB radiation to allow your skin to make Vit D. Sun beds are not a recommended way to make Vit D sadly.
From a small group of foods we can get Vit D:
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tune, herring, sardines, tuna, oysters, shrimp), Cod lover oil, Mushrooms, Red meat, Eggs & egg yolks
During menopause you can run the risk of Vit D deficiency. Due to the decline of oestrogen enzymes which are responsible for ‘sparking’ (activating) the Vit D during peri to menopause women may experience deficiency. Ask your GP for a Vit D serum level test to determine if you might need a supplement. For some, this may have a big impact on boosting mood. The other important provision made by Vit D is combating the risk of osteoporosis which can be a silent insidious disease.
Chinese medicine point: getting calcium is a really important dietary choice, but try to avoid cows milk. The sun and Vit D is also a key to health in menopause, make sure you take the time on a warm sunny day to sit outside and enjoy a break away from life (at-least for 20 minutes!) Or book a vacation in early spring!
Yes, for those of you who aren’t converts this is important to action to take now for future benefits which we know will be amazing!
Obesity and weight gain is common in during menopause because of a decrease in exercise tolerance related to loss of oestrogen (yes a real physiological issue). This then leads to insulin resistance and can possibly spiral into type 2 diabetes. Evidence based research suggests regular exercise and watching what you eat a crucial part to maintain the body.
Chinese medicine point of view: exercise is incredibly important because it moves your ‘Qi’ or energy. Think of your body as a form of energy, what happens when it just sits there? Energy becomes stagnant, then it erodes the level of health you thought you had.
Do you think it can magically maintain balance? Not possible without movement & exercise.
Let’s think of the body as a magic container we were given at birth, it has held our mind and spirit for many years and it may have created the miracle of children for you. In order to maintain this magic place you have to feed it the right food and drink, you have to move it (exercise) and you have continue to enrich your mind and spirit to evolve.
What is exercise? Well this is different for everyone, it maybe running a marathon at 50, it maybe trying to the couch to 5K, it might be walking your dog everyday rain or shine for an hour, maybe its skipping rope, going to the gym, swimming 4 times a week, yoga class. It’s different for everyone and the exciting part is you can adapt it to suits your lifestyle.
BUT the most important part is that you do exercise everyday. This will extend your life, it will maintain the magic vessel you have been given and most important it can be a place to expand your spirit. Sold yet?
Reduce alcohol intake
British NHS guidelines suggest a maximum of 14 units per week for women.
Example: a 125ml glass of wine (size small) with a ABV of 12% is 1.5 units, one can of lager at 440 ml, 5.5% is 2 units.
Why reduce wine especially?
Wine seems to have much worse after effects verses other alcoholic choices for women in peri menopause & menopause, one reason is how alcohol is broken down by one of our stomach enzyme’s (alcohol dehydrogenase/ ADH). Oestrogen suppresses this enzyme up until our late 40’s. When oestrogen declines so does our ability to process a glass of wine. When you compare the amount of alcohol in a small glass of wine to a one shot vodka + soda there is a considerable difference. Additionally the amount of sugar in wine on average is..
Dry white wine is 188 calories with 1.5 g for a 250 ml glass, 4 units
Medium white wine is 188 calories with 7.5 grams of sugar, 250 ml glass, 4 units
Rose is 198 calories with 6.25 grams, 250 ml glass, 4 units
Proseco 69 calories with under a teaspoon of sugar in a glass holding 101 ml (1 unit)
The suggested daily sugar allowance is 30 grams
So the moral of this tale is reduce alcohol consumption and choose the lowest sugar option for a cocktail.
Chinese medicine view: a little bit of alcohol is beneficial for some patterns associated with people who feel cold or struggle to get their energy to move. It is said to boost ‘Yang’ and move ‘Qi’. But moderation is the key.
Smoking has decreased over the past 20 years in most westernised countries due to the the risk of major illness such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. It can trigger hot flushes as well.
Chinese medicine view point: smoking is bad! You knew I would say that, but within the scope of our medicine there are some pretty good acupuncture treatments to support a someone who wants to quit smoking. The words ‘wants to quit’ are important here.
Go to health screening
The NHS offers health screenings for women and it’s vital that you attend if you want to look after your health during the menopause. Your body is changing and these screenings test for some of the most common issues that arise during this time.
Chinese med view point: it’s a very good idea to attend screenings and make sure your health is good during this transitional time. HRT might be offered to you, acupuncture is safe and effective with HRT or without.
How can acupuncture help you?
Acupuncture is great at reducing many symptoms associated with menopause. I specialise in women’s health and one main part of practice is supporting women going through the transition.
Read more from the British Acupuncture Council about menopause and acupuncture.